There have been a rash of articles in the media lately concentrating on men, and what they want. Not “from women”, but in life.
There was Janice Turner’s (@VictoriaPeckham) piece in the Times, which asked the amazingly spurious question “Why do men commit almost all the crime?”
There was Laurie Penny (@PennyRed) in the Guardian, with a typically well-written piece on the “crisis in masculinity” apparently discovered by Diane Abbott, including the equally amazing counter-factual line “The big secret about the golden age of “male providers” is that it never existed.”
and there was, less importantly but perhaps totemically, another mixed-up piece in the Times about how awful it was that teenage boys are becoming bodybuilders, with another false on its face characterization: ‘The “hyper-male” look first appeared on the cinema screen with Sylvester Stallone in the Rambo films and Arnold Schwarzenegger in The Terminator in the early eighties…but most men thought them laughable, like the Chippendales, the male strippers..’
So let’s just take the kite string and guide it gently back towards the ground of reality, one where sexual differences between men and women are real, proven, and in fact bloody obvious, and affect all the cells in the body, not skipping the grey matter of the brain.
Almost all crime is committed by men because men have higher levels of testosterone. (You’re welcome, Janice).
What? You want a bit more? Well, testosterone leads to many differences between males and females. It includes more aggression, more physical strength, more happiness, and more comfort with risk-taking. “Most crime is committed by men” is not of course the same as saying “Most men commit crimes”. Not much crime is committed by old men, where testosterone has dropped, for example.
And as for Laurie Penny’s, and Diane Abbott’s, arguments, they are quite wrong. Take the mind blowing “the golden age of male providers never existed.” Well, if you exclude every age and culture from the dawn of human history up until the present day, everywhere in the world, that is true. But if you include any human society anywhere at any time, it is of course false. Men have always been the primary breadwinners. They remain so today in overwhelming numbers.
Articles about “the decline of the male breadwinner” refer to a model where only one partner worked. Most women today, over 2/3 of mothers, work outside the home. Women contribute to family income. But they make a far lesser contribution than the male spouse. There is no first world society anywhere in the world today where women’s earnings are anything like those of male earnings.
And as to men “laughing at” Schwarzenegger and Stallone and “comparing them to strippers” as the author of the piece risibly argues, the films she cites were of course giant, epochal box office smash hits, and Schwarzenegger (and to a lesser extent Stallone) carried on making many hundred million dollar smashes right through the decade and into the nineties, the 00s and on up to this decade’s Expendables, each one going global on an audience of mainly spellbound men. (“Escape Plan” is coming this autumn.)
Now none of this is to argue that the picture hasn’t changed. The model of the paterfamilias of 1910, say, is indeed dead. Western wives love and honour, but they do not obey. There are two contributors to earnings in most households. Women have employment, legal and divorce rights; no longer do they need to be married or stay married in order to secure their basic survival. All this is the triumph of feminism and the liberation of women. At the same time, masculinity is no longer frozen out of child-rearing. Fathers spend more quality time with their children and feel more free to offer hugs and overt emotion. All this is wonderful, and it is progress.
Laurie Penny is surely right when she follows her epic line about “Male breadwinners never existing” with two more sensible arguments – that women have always worked, and that some men are, as she puts it, “too poor, too queer, too sensitive, too disabled, too compassionate or simply too clever to submit to whatever model of “masculinity” society relied upon to keep its wars fought and its factories staffed.”
Well, yes, sure. Of course. There are gay women, too, and disabled women, and women with no desire for either children or a mate, and both sexes provide endless variety, but what we are discussing here is the average, straight, male and female.
The fact is that men remain the primary breadwinners, and women remain the primary carers. Men care for their children more, and women work far more, and earn far more, and press their advantage all the time compared to the picture in the 1950s, but men remain better paid, better promoted, better represented and so on and so forth. We need more women aspiring to leadership positions. But men – MOST men, not all men – grow up expecting to have to be the main providers for their future family. And I believe this is an honourable, indeed noble, and entirely biologically explicable impulse.
So what do men want? In fact, I think we have come a long way. Men are still expected to “step up” and they still want to do so. At the same time, they have more friendships with women, more time with their children, and more ability to express their emotions than ever before. They are, in fact, in a pretty cool place. And when we read all the articles about Ariel Castro, and the Oxford gang of child rapists, and the Indian bastards who gang-raped and slaughtered an innocent woman, we should not lose sight of the fact that testosterone fuels these outlier monstrosities, but it also fuels the men who bust their asses working to pay most of the bills, who defend us on the field of battle, who drive into burning buildings to save us, and who land planes beautifully in the middle of rivers saving everybody on board because they have nerves of steel.
Janice Turner is comfortable asking “Why do men commit most of the crime?” It is a permissible headline, because it takes a truism, and it is a pro-woman truism. Would an article have sold with the title “Why do men still create most of the great art?” Or “Why do men still make almost all significant scientific discoveries?” Or “Why are all the great composers male?” Or “Why have men won 807 Nobel prizes whereas women have won 44?”
Men want to work outside the home – 76%. Only 22% would rather stay home. Frankly I am amazed it is that high. Of women, 51% – just over half – want to work outside the home, and 44% would stay home if they could.
Don’t cry for the end of masculinity just yet. It really isn’t going anywhere. Nor is the man as higher earner and main breadwinner. We are getting a more even partnership, where both sexes get in touch with their opposite side, but we are not eliminating sex differences in temperament, not will we ever.
That Y chromosome matters. Feminism is about equal rights and opportunities with men – not pretending most men and most women want the same things. They don’t.
Photo by highstrungloner